First Posted: 1/15/2009

million proposed for 9 projects

LUMBERTON -- The Robeson County school board tentatively approved spending $13.3 million in improvements and upgrades to nine schools during a workshop meeting Thursday night.
The board is expected to vote on the plan July 14.
The proposals include new cafeterias at Littlefield, Rowland Middle, West Lumberton Elementary and South Robeson High schools.
In other business, board members proposed a plan of converting Lumberton Junior High and Carroll Middle into schools that would house grades 5 through 8. Lumberton Junior High currently has grades 7 and 8 and Carroll Middle houses grades 5 and 6.
Board member Terry Smith said that he prefers that plan to another that would move fourth-graders from Littlefield and Tanglewood to Carroll Middle.
Interim Superintendent Alphonzo McRae said those changes would affect the staffing at both schools. It would also affect athletics, creating a need for playing fields at Carroll Middle School for football, soccer, basketball, baseball and softball, he said.
This morning, a board member, under condition of anonymity, said that a grievance a committee voted before the workshop to recommend that the board dismiss a grievance by Margaret Chavis, director of Indian Education, after she failed to show up for a hearing.
Chavis filed a grievance earlier this month. She is retired and was working under the 30-plus initiative, which allows employees to draw retirement while working under contract. Her contract expires Monday. The full board is expected to hear the matter July 14.
Littlefield pleased
Daryl Howard, PTA president at Littlefield, called the proposal for a new cafeteria at that school “an excellent start.”
Howard said there is a need to build an additional wing for classroom space to reduce the 13 mobile units on campus.
“With the area growing as quickly as it is, in four of five years we may be in the same state here at Littlefield,” he said. “But, overall, I am very pleased with the proposal.”
The improvements would be paid for with the $9 million that is left from $65 million in bond money the school system received in 1996. The balance would come from the state and would require some local matching money.
West Lumberton Elementary now receives its lunch food from Tanglewood Elementary's cafeteria. Board members tentatively approved building a cafeteria with a 250-student capacity. A new 12-classroom wing is also in the plans.
Board member Bosco Locklear complained about spending $2.6 million at West Lumberton, the smallest school in the county with 150 students. At one time it was scheduled to be closed.
“That school hasn't seen any growth since I joined the board seven years ago,” Locklear said.
These will be the first improvements at the school since 1954, according to Henry Byrd, executive director of administration.
A 7,000-square-foot wing for six additional classrooms at Janie C. Hargrave Elementary would be the first additions there since 1956, Byrd said. And, he said, Rowland Middle School hasn't seen major construction since the early 1960s. The school's proposed new cafeteria would seat 250 students. The existing cafeteria would be converted into a main office wing with a new media center.
Attendance lines
The board proposed changing the attendance lines near Oxendine Elementary School, which would allow all students who live near the school to attend Oxendine. The proposal would reduce crowding at Peterson Elementary and increase enrollment at Rex-Rennert Elementary.
There was discussion about altering attendance lines for East Robeson Elementary School, which would send some students to Rowland-Norment and others to Janie C. Hargrave elementary schools.
Board Chairman Mike Smith said that public hearings will be held in districts that might be affected. No meetings have been scheduled.

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